Britain's economic recovery has not been felt much by "real people", with many yet to feel "any sense of recovery", cabinet minister Ken Clarke has said.
The former Tory chancellor's characteristically blunt remarks will be politically awkward for the coalition, as Labour seized on the remarks as an admission of "what the rest of the Cabinet try to deny".
Clarke told Channel 4 News: "We have just come through a deep recession; the population of most European countries including the United Kingdom have not yet felt any sense of recovery.
"We're recovering more strongly than the others and the only way you can get living standards up is to have a strong return to competitive growth.
"But in the early stages it doesn't produce much for real people. These are the early stages."
Labour's shadow Treasury minister Catherine McKinnell said in response: "Ken Clarke has finally admitted what the rest of the Cabinet try to deny.
“Most working people are not feeling any recovery, yet David Cameron and George Osborne claim the economy is fixed and there’s no cost-of-living crisis."
Clarke, who is tipped to be on his way out of the Cabinet in a reshuffle next week, said he was surprised to be in it at the age of 73 and that he has reached a stage where he would not mind standing aside.
He said: "I've been in the Cabinet for a very long time. I am surprised to be in the Cabinet at my age."
Asked whether he would be surprised if he stayed in David Cameron's cabinet, Clarke said: "I have not the first idea. I reached a stage where believe it or not I am no longer seeking to catch the selector's eye.
"I enjoy being in the Cabinet, I am supportive of the Government and sooner or later a lot of ambitious young people have got to be promoted."